Our Task: To Make Rizal Obsolete - Part 1 of 2

WHAT WE FILIPINOS SHOULD KNOW: Note: Bold and/or Underlined words are HTML links. Click on them to see the linked postings/articles. Forwarding the postings to relatives and friends, especially in the homeland, is greatly appreciated. To write or read a comment, please go to http://www.thefilipinomind.blogspot.com/and scroll down to the bottom of the current post (or another post you read and may want to respond) and click on "Comments." To read Part 2 click on: Making Rizal Obsolete – Part 2 of 2

“The true Filipino is a decolonized Filipino.” – Prof. Renato Constantino (1919-1999) “If knowledge can create problems, it is not through ignorance that we can solve them”. – Isaac Asimov, 1920-1992 "To go against the dominant thinking of your friends, of most of the people you see every day, is perhaps the most difficult act of heroism you can perform." - Theodore H. White (1915 - 1986)


About 3 months ago, I posted a rebuttal article by Prof. Floro Quibuyen, which I entitled Rizal as Religion, Constantino As Dogma, to Prof. Roland Simbulan's "Rizal as Religion." I invite you to read it and the mentioned article by Prof. Simbulan, which is also linked in the article. Speaking of heroes, many of us Filipinos tend to wallow in nostalgiaabout our heroes. We seem to have put them on a pedestal and accorded them demigod and/or superhuman attributes. Rather remember that like us ordinary guys, they had their own weaknesses, vices and selfish interests. [Note that in recent decades, well-known and respected American historians have written about the

the myths and the men of so-called Founding Fathers, which are welldocumented revelations]. Sure heroes were unusual. Though they were very much a product of their own circumstances and time (as we today are much a product of our present conditions and time), heroes had a better grasp of the horizon, so to speak. The below article, written almost 50 years ago(!), by the late Prof. Renato Constantino --a "true Filipino," nationalist, and to me a hero-- clarifies for us, among other considerations, how we should see Rizal (which I think also as how we should see our other heroes). Constantino essentially tells us, and to which I heartily agree, that we need not heap more praise on our heroes but instead, by inference, to understand and emulate them. I believe and think that it is mainly by fighting and struggling, whether peacefully or not, for the attainment of the causes -primarily thecommon good - of the impoverished and illiterate majority in our homeland; for which and for whom many of our known and unknown heroes died, can we truly honor our heroes. - Bert
“Without heroes, we are all plain people, and don't know how far we can go." - Bernard Malamud (1914-1986)

"The first priority for any underdeveloped country, before it can begin the economic and
social development most appropriate to the needs of its people, is the seizure of power by the masses and the total destruction of the control and influence of the foreign power and local exploiting elite. Without this, nothing is possible.” – Felix Green, British Author, 1970


OUR TASK: TO MAKE RIZAL OBSOLETE - Prof. Renato Constantino (This Week, Manila Chronicle, June 14, 1959) The validity of Rizal's teachings today, sixty three years after his death, is both a measure of his greatness and of our lack of greatness as a nation. The importance of Rizal's

ideas for our generation has a two-fold basis -first, their applicability to presenday problems, and second, their inspirational value. Rizal holds a mirror to our faces and we see ourselves, our vices, our defect, our meanness. Because the conditions he describes are the very conditions we see around us, and the characters he portrays are people we continue to meet, we readily respond to his earnest desire for basic changes in our society and in ourselves. One hand holds a mirror to shame us and the other points the way to our regeneration. Yet, the truth is that the mirror is not meant to reveal our image, but the image of the people and the society of Rizal's time. The fact that Rizal's aim was to depict the society in which he lived, and the fact that we nevertheless find that he is also speaking about the society in which we live, have given rise to two school of thoughts about Rizal. Two Extremes One group reasons out that because Rizal is still applicable today, he must have possessed uncanny powers of prophecy. Furthermore, because he is still valid today, Rizal will be valid for all time. In their sincere reverence for our national hero, they have transformed him into a demigod whose teachings will constitute the final word, the definitive Bible, on any and all aspects of Filipino life now and in the future. The other group pays lip service to Rizal's memory, professes to love our hero by conceding his greatness, but in reality emasculates his teachings by emphasizing only what it considers the harmless and non-controversialaspects of his life and works. Some in this group claim that the conditions Rizal wrote about no longer exist today. Others even go so far as to say that Rizal's characters in his two novels were pure fiction, without basis in fact. A "Devitalized" Rizal Both groups distort the meaning of Rizal for our people, those who want to strain out of the real Rizal all that is vital and forceful, leaving a sterile, almost meaningless hero, are those who find the truths he spoke, unpalatable and dangerous even now. A "devitalized" Rizal is what they would offer our people as a concession to the abiding love which Filipinos feel for their national hero. Perhaps, if they had their way, some whould prefer a "safer" hero. In fact, there have been attempts to foist upon our peole another national hero by means of propaganda and awards carrying his name. Such moves will not succeed because, to merit the hero worship of present and future generations, a man must stand on solid achivements and not on a hollow reputation built up by high-pressure salesmanship. History will be the ultimate judge of whether a leader

will emerge as a hero or prove to be a mere passing fancy. History enshrines the true heroes and mercilessly exposes the fakes. Some true lovers of Rizal are also guilty of distorting his meaning for us. When they extol Rizal's prophetic vision and proclaim that his teachings will forever be valid,they fail to view society as a dynamic system. Without perhaps being conscious of it, they really proceed on the assumption that the Filipinos as a people will forever remain backward, poor, ignorant and corrupt. Their static concept of rizal is a denial of the dynamic implications of his life, his works, and his death. Rizal was a product of his times, but unlike lesser mortals, he could stand apart from his society and describe it clearly and dispassionately. Thus he is the best commentator of Philippine society during the latter part of the 19th century. That the comments he made on that period are applicable to ours shows that Philippine society has changed very little from his time. Rizal's works exposed the defects of Philippine society during that period. He might as well have been writing about our time, for all around us we see the same backwardness, the same preponderance of intolerance, the same prevalence of ignorance, the same display of opportunism and corrpution, the same lack of nationalist sentiment, and the same disunity when we should be working together in pursuit of common national goals. Rizal never intended that his works should mirror the ills of the Philippines a century hence; but if they do, it is because, as a people, we have progressed little and learned less from our colonial past. A Mirror of the Past Rizal would be horrified and greatly saddened to learn that we are celebrating his centennial precisely by extolling his validity for our times. His zeal as a social reformer, his dedicated efforts to improve his countrymen, all his patriotic labors were directed toward one goal reforms. If we revere Rizal, if we wish to honor him,if we want to follow in his footsteps, our task is clear. That task is to make Rizal obsolete. To do this, we must eradicate the ills of present-day society so that Rizal's teachings will become what they were meant to be, a mirror of the past; and the future Philippine society, a realization of Rizal's dream. Rizal would then be obsolete as a critic of the present although he will forever remain the courageous and wise commentator of the past whose life and works guided his peole to worthy achievements. In that bright Philippines of the future, Rizal will still be a great hero because he spurred us to reform ourselves and achieve greatness as a people and not because, as some of his more fanatical adherents wrongly believe, he is the fountain of all wisdom for all situations.

Tulisanes in Cadillacs Why is Rizal our national hero? A hero is he who best understands the society in which he lives, who knows the problems and aspirations of his people, who by his teachings and his labors, concretizes these problems and aspirations so that the vague discontent and the hazy strivings towards something better in the people's minds are crystallized into a clear pattern of action with definite goals. Rizal is still very much our hero because he crystallized for his generation as well as for ours most of the great problems of Philippine society. In page after page of his Noli Me Tangere and his El Filibusterismo we read indictments of our present society. In chapter XI of El Filibusterismo, Simoun, addressing the friars and the military and civil functionaries, said, "The evil is not in that there are tulisanes in the mountains and uninhabited
parts --the evil lies in the tulisanes in the towns and cities."

when we consider the widespread corruption in

our society today, we can agree with Simoun's verdict. For after all, what is a tulisan, essentially? He is a man who disregards and is contemptous of the law, and who, by fair means or foul, is bent on getting for himself whatever he desires regardless of the consequences to society of his his anti-social actions. Today, those who profit from the people's money, those who make of government a milking cow, those who derive income by dishonest means, the civil functionaries who merely watch the clock, the teachers who neglect their duties, the officers of the law who mulct and extort, the hoardersm the profiteers -these are all tulisanes of the towns and cities. The evil which Rizal pointed out is compounded in our society because, corrupt as we are, we do not outlaw these tulisanes, we do not ostracize them. Instead, we admire them as practical men who know how to live. We fawn upon them because they are not Don Quixotes, idealists or visionaries but ruthless men whose doctrine is "the Devil takes the hindmost," and we respect men once they ahave achieved material success, no matter what the means. Truly, the tulisanes are not only in the mountains. they are among us, riding around in Cadillacs. The Pelaezes the the Present The techniques of enrichment exposed by Rizal during his day find their counterparts in present-day society. The incident involving the shrewed Don Timoteo Pelaez in El Filibusterismo no doubt will seem familiar to many of our "Dons" and "Honorables." Don Pelaez was able to bribe the authorities into proclaiming a decree which ordered the destruction of houses of light materials. How did this favor the good Don Timoteo? Simple, he had just received a shipment of galvanized iron. A hitch developed however. The order for

the destruction of the houses was to take effect a month later. This worried Don Timoteo because his competitotrs' shipment might arrive on time. Then it was discovered that the owners of the houses, inconsiderate wretches, were too poor to buy the glavanized sheets. But no matter, Don Timoteo's business friends shrewdly suggested that he buy the houses at a ridiculously low price, have the decree rescinded, and then resell them at an enormous profit. Whether Don Timoteo followed this excellent advice or not, Rizal does not say; but the mere fact that the suggestion was made, and made so matter-of-factly, is proof that these devious business practices were the rule rather than the exception. No one can say we have run out of Don Timoteos in our time. One-Armed Bandits Rizal's generation had its own quota of "fixers" and influence peddlers. In Chapter XLIX of the Noli Me Tangere, Rizal introduces us to the one-armed man, who upon hearing that the wife of Capitan Tinong had presented the Capitan General with a ring worth P1,000 because of Tinong's fear that he might be implicated in the case of Ibarra, hurriedly left the gathering in order to put his vicious plans into operation. Soon after we find Capitan Tinong taken to Fort Santiago together with other men of position and property. Rizal hints that the one-armed man was engaged in the nefarious trade of first scheming to imprison men of means and position and later working for their release for a certain price. The governemnt employe who purposely enmeshes the citizen in red tape so that he may "facilitate" or 'expedite" matters for a considration, is perhaps only a pickpocket edition of the one-armed man but his crime is of the same nature. Rizal of course did not foresee the existence of influence peddling and fixing as a thriving profession today. (So thriving that I am surprised these ladies and gentlemen have not yet formed an Association of Fixers of the Philippines.) But the fact remains that one more evil in Rizal's Philippine society is still with us.

To be continued ....in Part 2.

Source: THE FILIPINOS IN THE PHILIPPINES AND OTHER ESSAYS BY Renato Constantino, Malaya Books, 1966

Posted by Bert M. Drona at 11:59 AM Labels: filipino character, Filipino nationalism, heroes, Jose Rizal,Renato Constantino